At the Oakland Township Board meeting held on April 12, 2022, it became clear that there is not a common “vision” between the Township Board and the Parks & Recreation Commission as to what our Parks and, more significantly, Land Preservation parcels should be in our Township. This issue became apparent in trying to define what work was to be done on the recently purchased Lost Lake Nature Park expansion (renamed the Fox Nature Preserve at the meeting).
The meeting was attended by many people supporting the Parks and Recreation Commission’s understanding of land preservation. This approach focuses on eliminating invasive plant species, improving conditions for historically native plants to return and thrive, and improving the conditions for young oak trees to thrive in “Oakland” Township so, as the existing trees die, new ones will replace them. These things in turn provide environments for beneficial insects and birds to thrive in the Township.
The meeting was also attended by many people who live near the Fox Preserve property who do not want to see the property change from what exists now. For them, it appears that preservation means – let it stay as it is, or let the property evolve with little or no active management. Some were concerned that changing what is out there now will result in loss of the wildlife that currently live in that environment.
This lack of a common understanding of what land preservation means, and more importantly, how Oakland Township wants to implement land preservation, needs to be jointly agreed upon between the Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission before our Township can move forward satisfying all of our Township residents desires.
This agreement must be based on Oakland Township citizen input:
Should the decision on a specific property be based solely on the input from adjacent property owners?
Should their input affect the entire property?
Should adjacent property owner input be factored only in “buffer zones”?
What about the voice of the remainder of Oakland Township citizens?
Does the strategy the Board and Parks Commission selects preclude Oakland Township from getting future grants to fund land purchases?
The Board’s decisions on April 12 will not resolve the issues going forward. Their decisions may place Oakland Township’s ability to fully meet the requirements of the grant fund for the land purchase in jeopardy. If the requirements are not met, we may have to return the + $3 million received in the grant.
Several citizens as well as the Parks and Recreation Commission members suggested a joint meeting with the Board to get everyone on the same ‘wavelength’. The Board has refused to respond to this request.
The decisions the Board made on April 12 appear to primarily be based on the opinions of the property owners near the newly acquired property. The Board needs to get broader input on this strategic decision for the Township.
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, THE BALL IS NOW IN THE BOARD’S COURT!
(site manager and Oakland Township Planning Commissioner for 27 years)